Moscow: Isolated but defiant Russia is set to elect Vladimir Putin to a historic fourth Kremlin term, as the country faces increasing isolation over a spy poisoning in Britain and a fresh round of US sanctions.
Since taking power in 2000, Putin has stamped his total authority on the country, silencing opposition and reasserting Moscow’s lost might abroad.
While Polling was reported at around 70%, Putin is sure to extend his term to 2024 despite a lacklustre campaign ahead of a summer when global attention will be glued to Russia as it hosts the football World Cup.
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin born 7 October 1952, is a Russian politician serving as President of the Russian Federation since 7 May 2012, previously holding the position from 2000 until 2008. He was Prime Minister of the Russian Federation from 1999 until 2000, and again from 2008 until 2012. During his second term as Prime Minister, he was the chairman of the ruling United Russia party.
Putin was born in Leningrad in the Soviet Union. He studied law at the Saint Petersburg State University, graduating in 1975. Putin was a KGB foreign intelligence officer for 16 years, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before retiring in 1991 to enter politics in Saint Petersburg. He moved to Moscow in 1996 and joined President Boris Yeltsin’s administration, rising quickly through the ranks and becoming Acting President on 31 December 1999, when Yeltsin resigned. Putin won the subsequent 2000 presidential election by a 53% to 30% margin, thus avoiding a runoff with his Communist Party of the Russian Federation opponent, Gennady Zyuganov. He was reelected President in 2004 with 72% of the vote.
Putin has sought to communicate in the election run-up to emphasise Russia’s role as a major world power, boasting of its “invincible” new weapons and continuing Moscow’s support for the Syrian regime in a bloody civil war.
However, growing tensions with the UK over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal in Britain, and new sanctions from Washington over alleged election meddling strengthen the impression of a Russia at loggerheads with the rest of the world.
This Sunday also marks exactly four years since Putin signed a treaty declaring Crimea part of Russia following its annexation from Ukraine, an action that led to the war in the east of the former Soviet State.
Putin, who has run under the slogan “a strong president — a strong Russia”, has declined to take part in televised debates and shot no new material for his own campaign advertisements.
He is standing against seven other candidates, including reality TV host Ksenia Sobchak and millionaire socialist Pavel Grudinin, but none are expected to poll more than 8%.
Putin’s most vocal opponent, the anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, was barred from standing for legal reasons and has called on followers to boycott an election.
According to official pollsters, turnout is expected to be between 63 and 67%.
The election was held amid the tensions with the West and US over spy poisoning and meddling in US Presidential election. Russia announced on Saturday that it will expel 23 British diplomats and stop the activities of the British Council in response to London’s provocative measures over the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter.
It said the move was a response to Britain’s provocative actions and baseless allegations over the incident in Salisbury on 4 March,” referring to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal with a nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union, which Britain has blamed on Russia.
Russia also said it was stopping the activities of the British Council, Britain’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities, across the country.
And the foreign ministry had also warned Britain that “if further unfriendly actions are taken towards Russia, the Russian side retains the right to take other answering measures.